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The COOL Mom

I am NOT the cool mom.

That title currently belongs to a neighbor. Six-year-old went to play with her son the other day after school. At cool mom's house, he played Legos with friends, watched part of a Star Wars movie we hadn't let him see yet and ate cookies just before dinner. At cool mom's house, they have an XBox.

At my house, the TV's on so rarely the kids forget it exists. At our house, watching the original "Star Wars" was a recent treat we made six year old earn. Snacks are fruit or vegetables or nuts or popcorn. And XBox? Not a chance. We just started allowing the kids to play Freddi Fish and Pajama Sam on the computer. XBox, Webkinz, Wii, and Playstations aren't yet in their vocabularies. (Though I'm guessing not for long!)

Do I begrudge cool mom for doing those things with her child? Certainly not. She can raise her kid however she wants. But I sure am a little jealous. I always imagined my kids wanting to invite friends to play at our house. Instead, I can see the scene starting to unfold already. "I KNOW you like so-and-so's mom, but I'm the one you've got, so live with it."

Six-year-old asked to go back on Monday. "His mom said it's okay." My response: "We take turns hosting. You can ask him to come over here next." Hopefully, our house isn't too boring.

How do you let go of controlling your kids' lives while still instilling your values? Are you the cool house, the strict house or something in between?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  January 28, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers
Previous: The Sandwich Dilemma | Next: Embracing an Epidemic


FOr kids under 8 the cool house is always the house where there is something different. Kids like new thing that are different than what they play with/experience on a daily basis. If the neighbor had no electricity and only played board games by gas lamp that would be the cool house because they play games in the dark all the time. it is all relative. Just be the best parent you can and the rest will fall into place. your kids will respect you for it.


Posted by: happydad | January 28, 2008 7:34 AM | Report abuse

I'm the cool teacher at anyrate. SD does not watch TV or have junk food when she's with us, and I try to convey that same sense of responsibility onto my kids. However, I have let the occasional joke crack in class, and I have a reputation for being honest (drugs are bad, but marijuana isn't as bad as heroine, but don't do either anyway) and explaining things clearly (Comparative religions for 3rd graders one summer. Whee.) so kids and parents keep asking my principal to assign me to THEIR grade for the summer or for next year (I'm also good at deflecting "What grade are you teaching next ____?" with "Ask the principal.")

My SD's cousins like hanging out at our house because our house is a lot calmer than their parents' house and they can play puzzles or color or I will read to them for hours if they want.

Posted by: Kat | January 28, 2008 7:37 AM | Report abuse "my kids" I meant "my students". I just realized how unclear that sounded.

Posted by: Kat | January 28, 2008 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Happy Dad is right. We have a 7 year old and a 10 year old, who like to go to visit their friends and play video games, and their friends like to come to our house where there are none. You can instill your values at home, just like Cool Mom does in her home.

Do something a little different when the friends come over. An art project, a little outdoor play. That would be different for the xbox generation!

Posted by: Mark | January 28, 2008 7:52 AM | Report abuse

My plan is to be the "uncool" mom (when it comes to pop culture) until my son is 13 or so and has experienced the boring, three-dimensional world, played his fill of board games, and had a chance to just - be.

Then my husband and I will buy all the latest electronic stuff for the teen years (plus an extra fridge full of food) so that they all hang out at our house. That's the theory and I'm sticking to it. :)

Posted by: Shandra | January 28, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

To my kids, I am not the cool Mom...But others in the neighborhood feel differently. There is a pretty steady stream of neighborhood kids in and out of my house. The rule for my kids is no movies, tv, video or computer games when friends are over. They are here to play. They get to paint, cook, move the furniture and dance around the livingroom.

I agree with the first poster that younger kids tend to be entranced by the differences in the homes of their friends.

Posted by: Momof5 | January 28, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

The "Cool Moms" kids tend to be the future messed up druggies & nymphos.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 28, 2008 8:09 AM | Report abuse

I have pretty stern limits on how much TV my boys can watch, and which programs, but we renegotiate from time to time. One rule, however, was introduced when they were small and they've never thought to argue it - no TV when friends come over to play, "because they're here to play, not to sit quietly, they can do that by themselves." Works for us, knock on wood.

Posted by: Kaitlin | January 28, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

I am a proud uncool mom of three, and my "baby" is now 17. I'm writing to say, "hang in there" We still are "gamebox free" here.
And no, we're not the cool house and I have those jealousies. However, we are the house with the best food. Movie nights are here, as are the cast parties after the high school plays, and on snow days we have s'mores by the fire.
The dividend of spending lots of time doing art projects, cooking, creating puppet shows and LOTS of Legos,building "stuff", playing music, and reading is paying off. I have three very different, but each very creative "self starters" who know lots of ways to have fun without being "plugged in" and are all comfortable in the kitchen.
They are all social (another dividend of NOT relating simply by playing games together)and creative. Oh, I said that.
The creativity part, is, the biggest pay-off. They have had the time to discover their talents---not just one, but several, and all feel comfortable in their skins. (This despite some significant learning disablities for one.) Enough so to be able to stand up to peer pressure both at home and in college.
It can be hard, but don't cave. You'll be glad you did. Each of my kids has told me at one point or the other they are glad they were raised the way they were.

Posted by: sk | January 28, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm...I tell parents when they ask if my children can come over -my children aren't allowed to play video games or watch tv/movies. The parents all seem fine with that - even the ones whose children do it all the time. (maybe they like blaming me as a reason to deny that activity during playdates?)

So, I am the total opposite of the cool mom - I guess I'm the strict mom EXCEPT that the other parents seem happy to send over their children because my children play outside year round. They can dig and build and play with water and paint and chalk and do whatever they want in our yard - unlike the rest of the manicured neighborhood yards. (and get muddy and dirty and need to change into dry socks, etc.) I let them out in the rain (except thunderstorms) the cold, all the elements that children used to play in before we started keeping them inside b/c of bad weather.

And I always ask parents what snacks would be ok. I don't understand why the "cool mom" thinks giving children cookies at a meal time is appropriate. She seems like "thoughtless mom" to me.

Posted by: Amelia | January 28, 2008 8:19 AM | Report abuse

You aren't talking about a teen here, this is a SIX-year-old boy. I would NEVER EVER let a 6yo watch a non-G-rated movie without first checking with his mom.

And BTW, you pretty much find out that to your kids it's always someone else's house that is cool. But to other kids, your house is cool, too! I've got a big group here today (teacher day) because everyone wanted to be at my house for pancakes, making pretzels, crafts and basketball.

We NEVER have time for movies/TV during the day!

Posted by: Andrea | January 28, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Stacey - today the cool mom is the one that has the electronic gadgets, toys and sweets. Tomorrow it could be the one that got down on the floor and finger painted with the kids. The next day it could be the one that played pickup basketball with the kids, or let them help make cookies. And when the kids are teenagers, it could be the mom that was always there to listen without judging.

My point is that cool is not just one thing. Kids like visiting homes where they are made to feel welcome, and they like the moms that are comfortable with themselves.

Posted by: Jen | January 28, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I have to also say that it's borderline behavior to let a 6 year old watch a PG movie. Star Wars is exciting, but Luke's father severs his hand, you know? Explain that one.

I always thought I would be the cool dad until I realized that I was a member of the older generation and I'd let my kids play Tetris, but not Bloodsport IV.

Posted by: DCer | January 28, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Ah, yes. Everyone else has a Wii....So and so has their own computer in their bedroom.. and on and on it goes.

I try to discuss the things we discourage at our home with the play-date parent, and the reasons why the rules are that way. Politely ask them to respect that we don't want our daughter eating an entire bowl of ice cream before they send her home for dinner.

It has to be a respect issue, mostly. If they cannot respect our wishes, we tend to limit how much time these young ones spend together.

Posted by: kmk | January 28, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

We have a pond in our backyard (which has a gate around it and we supervise a lot). At our house, things that are fun include playing outdoors, playing tag, exploring. etc. We've had a few kids tell us our house is boring because we have fewer electronics -- and almost every time, I've decided these are friends my kids can afford to lose (including the one who once asked me, "Why is YOUR house so small? Ours is so much larger . . " Decided we could deal without her or her family, who clearly taught her to go around judging others based on the size of their houses).

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

drugs are bad, but marijuana isn't as bad as heroine, but don't do either anyway

a teacher who can't spell herion properly? Please clarify, are you telling 3rd graders that pot isn't as bad as heroin?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Not really on-topic, but Luke's aunt and uncle are shown as burnt-up corpses. Gave me quite a turn, and I'm the grown-up.

Posted by: Dana | January 28, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I like your approach, Uncool Mom! Take turns hosting, don't badmouth the Cool Mom and make sure your kids don't badmouth you or your home.

Posted by: KC in Lubbock | January 28, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

My kid just LOVES to go to everyone else's houses - the kids on the street are more homebodies really. He always wants to stay over elsewhere, etc.
We have a wii, but we don't play it much. We don't let the kids watch TV just about ever (sometimes in the AM while we're getting dressed, or weekends for a short period, or if they're sick).

But I think whoever said it is correct, new and different toys are what the kids like. Today, it's rare that kids have most of the same toys as another, since there are SO MANY toys out there (so different than even a few years ago).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 28, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Of course you don't know everything your kids learn at school, but I'd feel uncomfortable (to say the least) if my 3rd grader learned that marijuana isn't as bad as heroin. Even coupled with "but don't do either", the message is that if you do smoke a little pot, well, you really shouldn't - but at least it's not crack.

And I love when people correct other's spelling, then misspell the words themselves. Herion, indeed.

Posted by: Karen | January 28, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

PATIENCE isn't cool and will never be.

But it will ALWAYS be infinitely far more rewarding to you and your children in the end.

Posted by: charlie | January 28, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Remember folks, what we're aiming for are kids who will develop a proper (read "adult") view of Cool Mom as they mature. When they are kids, Cool Mom is...Cool! But as they become adults, they lose all respect for her.
They come to realize that Cool Mom wants the short-term gratification of being liked by children and is willing to sacrifice the proper discipline and upbringing of her own children in order to achieve it.

Posted by: Paul | January 28, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

He- when I was a kid the "cool" houses were the ones in which there were no younger siblings. Bonus if there was an older sibling with a car who could drive us around.

I agree with the others- it's mostly about having "new" stuff to do. One person might have a really cool yard for building forts, another might have a mom who likes to bake cookies, another might have a nearby playground. I think the most important thing is that the other kids feel welcome in your house, and not that you're put out because they're there.

Posted by: reston, va | January 28, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

i only recently started to allow my son & his friends to play their ds & pokemon games on play dates. maybe it's just my son but i see a good bit of socializing going on.
"here, this is how you beat this monster" or "you need to do this in order to be able to do that" or "how do i get to ...". i have seen a good bit of talking back & forth.
dance dance revolution is the only game we play on our playstation. i don't think our son has figured out that it plays more games. that also has been good. they move to the music, encourage each other, and make up scatalogical lyrics which all 7 year old boys seem to love. i don't see it as evil.

Posted by: quark | January 28, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Everything in moderation, people.
My son is 4, he can boot up my laptop, login to his own profile, and follow links I've set up to his favorite online games like The Wiggles, Noggin, Thomas, etc. I don't think using a computer is a bad thing, I think it's a necessary part of functioning in modern society. And when he does play, it's rarely for more than 45 minutes before he wants to play with something.

He's seen the Star Wars movies (the old ones), prefers the Pixar movies (we own all of them), and asks to watch Mythbusters when mommy and daddy want some mindless tv time.

He also has lots of puzzles, building toys, cars, art supplies and regularly turns our living room in to a pillow fort and ignores the TV. We also have a play fort with a slide in our basement left by the previous owners who had 4 kids. It's a big hit with play dates, particularly during the long, cold winters we have here in the upper midwest.

Our house is the cool house because we have a ton of space and toys for the kids to play with and we let them thunder around in the basement as long as no one gets hurt or excluded from playing.
I may let my son watch TV and movies and eat the occasional sweets, but I wouldn't presume to let his friends do the same at my house.

Posted by: Oh Please... | January 28, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I am definately not the "cool" mom. According to my 14 & 15 year old girls "everybody" has more stuff than we do, other parents don't care where there kids are all the time, and "nobody" makes their kids go to church every week. However, I am the mother that they and their friends know they can rely on to always get a ride home at night (I may fuss a little, but I will always pick them up and take their friends home), and I am the mother around whom it is actually ok to talk about what's going on ("you can actually talk about boys in front of your mom?!").I can live with that.

Posted by: Celeste | January 28, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Cookies, movies, and legos. Oh, the horror!!

Video games can help with hand eye coordination as well.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Wow- apparently no one on this blog allows their kid to do anything remotely developmentally unsound (watch TV, play video games, etc). The "bad" parents must be posting on different blogs. I think I will go find them.... it gets a bit tiresome to read entry after entry of "at my house we only do wholesome, educational activities like legos and board games..."

Posted by: going to find a more interesting crowd | January 28, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"a teacher who can't spell herion properly? Please clarify, are you telling 3rd graders that pot isn't as bad as heroin?"

Please edit your own punctuation and spelling before correcting others'.

Posted by: J | January 28, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Oh and don't forget all the healthy snacks... "at my house we only serve celery for snacks- I can't believe that mom down the street who gave my kid a cookie!"

Posted by: yawn | January 28, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm definitely an uncool mom in terms of video games, pop culture, etc. One of my older child's friends is allowed more than my children in terms of material possessions and video games, but the family's core values are pretty close to ours. On the surface, looking at material possessions/electronics, one might think the other child is spoiled. However, the child is one of the easiest kids to have around that I know and enjoys a variety of activities.

The biggest difference I notice in my children's friends is the difference between kids who view adults as equals and kids who are taught that there is a difference between how they act with adults and how they act with their friends. Some of my kids' favorite teachers have been the strict ones. Some of the least pleasant kids to have around are the ones who have been in too many activities, especially commercial activities run by "teachers" barely out of their teens who are called by their first names. Too many kids cross the line from being comfortable with adults to over-familiar in their manners with adults. I think that a grown-up who tries to act too "cool" by being permissive confuses the kids.

I don't think that kids need to view the adults in their lives as "cool" to like them and enjoy visiting their friends in their homes. As others have suggested, kids enjoy being where they know they are liked and welcome. This doesn't necessarily require an Xbox, even for teens. I think better investments for our family will be a ping-pong table in the basement and a basketball hoop in the driveway.

Posted by: marian | January 28, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I've found reality lies somewhere inbetween cool and uncool. We're cool in some respects (TV, lite on forced veggie consumption) and harsh in others (no violent TV, no video games, early bedtimes even for sleepovers). Parents who are either too lax or too strict create trouble for their kids (and themselves).

Posted by: leslie4 | January 28, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I'm with leslie4. When I was a kid, the kids with the parents who didn't give a damn and the kids with the crazy super strict parents were either complete disciplinary nightmares or were the weird ones no one talked to because they were incapable of relating to their peers. Apparently sugar, rock n roll, and TV were the work of the devil... who knew?

Posted by: Oh Please... | January 28, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

there's a big difference between transposing two letters when typing and the inability to distinguish between a drug and someone to admire. secondly, I'm not a teacher but i know there is no "e" on heroin (the drug) or potato.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I notice that all the kids that become wild, drink, out-of-control all had one thing in common = a repressive (I mean uncool) mom. Me and some friends own rental condos at a WV ski resort. We have an "understanding" with mgmt = NO CHURCH GROUPS ALLOWED. When their kids get some freedom they become Kids Gone Wild 'cause they just aren't used to it...just like UnCool Mom's kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm somewhere in the middle on this one. I try not to let the kids watch t.v. when they have play dates - they can do that on their own time, but I do try to be fun. They can play loud music, paint the sidewalk or each other and fool around as much as they like as long as they are respectful of our home and each other. I try to be respectful of other families' rules and ask about movies or video games if that is something we are planning. If I dont' get to ask the parents, I come down on the safe side and tell them to find something else. Then again, I still don't let my kids watch PG movies - so I guess my level of cool depends on the criteria and the judge.

I'm less interested in being cool and liked than I am in raising good people which I think REQUIRES a certain level of uncoolness.

Posted by: Moxiemom | January 28, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Moderation in these things is the key, folks. I couldn't care less if I am considered cool or uncool, but my kids play videogames and watch television, all in moderation. We also have lots of family time where we play board games or watch movies together. Free time is just that-I allow the kids to pick their activity as long as their homework and chores are done. Kids lives are structured enough with all of the pressures of school and I let them choose their own entertainment as long as it is age-appropriate.

As for what we eat for snacks, the rule is a limit of one non-nutritious treat per day, either after school or dinner. If you are hungry, eat healthy food first. I don't have a lot of junk food around the house, but baking cookies is a fun thing to do on playdates, so maybe that was what was going on in the blog. And I agree on the playdate thing-they are here to play so no tv or videogames.

Posted by: cherylinseattle | January 28, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

My boys love to invite their friends over because we always have snacks and I let them crank up the music. Most of their friends have the X-boxes and Wiis but we have...ta da...a ping pong table! Who knew it would be such a hit when we bought it at Christmas. We rarely do movies and when we do I requre the parents' permission. All three boys love to mess around in the kitchen so I let them cook stuff up with minimum supervision. It gives them such a feeling of accomplishment not to mention bragging rights. Most other moms don't let their kids near the knives...:)

Posted by: momof3boys | January 28, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

"Apparently sugar, rock n roll, and TV were the work of the devil"

It's not that any of those things are inherently bad. I'm finding that some of the differences in permissiveness with media are most pronounced in the big transition times, e.g., moving from the pre-school years to elementary, from elementary into the tween/middle school years, etc.

I don't think it's terrible for a parent to let a six-year-old watch Star Wars if the child isn't likely to be disturbed by the darker parts. It is PG, though, and a parent shouldn't assume that their child's friend is ready for it without checking first.

For the early elementary years, I would prefer that kids not spend the bulk of a playdate watching TV. I don't mind if my kids play content-appropriate video games at a kid's house for part of a playdate. I don't want them doing it for the entire playdate every time. As kids get older, a movie night or bad-weather playdate of video games will be fine some of the time. I'm fine with junk food or cookies occasionally too (in moderation and not right before mealtimes).

This is why I don't like drive-by playdates. I find that some parents are too ready to drop their kid off at my house without knowing anything about our family except that we have a kid in the same school. How are these parents supposed to have any idea of what my judgement will be about media, snackfoods, etc.? I don't need to micromanage every playdate, but I need to have a sense of the other parents' judgement. I won't get bent out of shape if my kid watches something he doesn't watch at home (within reason) if in the big picture I think the parents are raising their kids in a safe and healthy environment that emphasizes education and kindness and respect to others.

Posted by: marian | January 28, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the ones who say kids just like what's different than at their own houses.

Due to my son's ADHD, we don't own a gaming system - so he loves going to friends' houses who have them. My daughter, on the other hand (age 14) has her own laptop, and her friends think that's cool. BUT she's an A/B student in an honors program, and if I thought her work was suffering due to online time I would take the privilege away.

FWIW, my husband is clergy and works very hard at being the "cool one" - mostly because he wants all the kids to feel that they can discuss anything with him, esp the stuff they wouldn't talk to their parents about. HE has a MySpace, and they all know they can find him there. (This also serves as a deterrent to our daughter against posting anything stupid.) All in all, it works for us... I get to play the role of the unhip, out-of-the-loop parent.

Posted by: Loren | January 28, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Why is it that the definition of "cool" seems to revolve around television, video games and food? I don't necessarily deny my daughter access to those things, but they hold little to no interest to me, so I place no value on them. I'm much more likely to take her, with or without a friend, to the batting cage, driving range, mini-golf course, rock climbing gym, bowling alley, soccer pitch, on a bike ride or just out to the backyard to play whiffleball of have a snowball fight. It seems to me that when they play video games or watch TV, they are just kind of killing time and if I suggest some alternate activity that involves actual movement, they are quick to turn off the electronics and head out. Not always, but more often than not. It's kind of hard to worry about Cheez Doodles or Pokemon when you are hanging off a 40 foot rock wall or splashing through a stream on a bike. And before the screaming starts, I realize we are talking about six-year-olds. My daughter is eight and has been doing these kinds of activities for at least three years. Challenge them and they may surprise you.

Of course, not all kids are the same and no one knows your kids better than you do. Nor am I saying that everyone needs to engage in sports. But it seems to me that instead of getting all the latest gadgets and worrying about "coolness", we might be better off just being ourselves and trying to share our interests with them whatever those may be (and maybe YOU ARE into video gaming...). Any which way, values are learned through communication, shared experience and time spent together, not from who can indulge or deny every whim the most.

Just my two cents.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I just talked with my 16 year old daughter. On a "coolness" scale for father hood of 1 to 10 I scored an 8.5.

Not bad. Why am I so cool? Reason #1, she said she could talk to me about anything and I don't jump on mmy parental soapbox, get all judgemental and start lecturing.

Plus, her friends have heard me jam on my Les Paul electric guitar and they all know that I'm a badass when it comes to jamming out riffs of popular heavy metal licks.

Being a "cool" parent has everything to do with how you relate with kids, and nothing to do with cookies, ice cream, celery sticks, video games, movies or TV watching.

Posted by: DandyLion | January 28, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Hopefully he's seen the original trilogy of Star Wars movies before seeing any of the prequels. Seeing the prequels first ruins the whole thing.

Posted by: Yoda | January 28, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Six is so much differnt than sixteen. At six every sensitive loving mom is cool in her own way. Rethink your thoughts on controllings you son's life. Kids of all ages need boundaries. If you don't establish them, someone else will and they may be way outside of yours. Your idea of hosting every other time is a great idea. It will expose your son's friend to different experiences than he has at home and will allow you son to share his own interests with his friend. Give the boys space to be boys without bruising each other to badly or demolsihing the house and they will use their imagination to create fun things to do. If you want a little more involvment maybe you can help them put together a puzzle, let them draw or paint at the kitchen table. It's easier to clean up if there is a spill, you can ensure things don't get out of hand, and you can praise their accomplishments. That's a good thing for their self images and makes you a pretty cool in everyones eyes even if there isn't an Xbox in the house. Lastly, remember, at sixteen, nobody's mom is cool. Enjoy him to the uttmost while you are still pretty much the center of his universe.

Posted by: GR | January 28, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Of course he's only seen IV, V, and VI.
I-III are lame lame lame. III is too dark for little kids, II is just boring, and I, well, the poor kid couldn't act to save his life.

I was 5 when Star Wars came out in '77. I don't remember thinking it was scary -- it was cool.
Now when my parents took me with them to see a drive-in horror flick called Grizzly (also '77) and assumed I'd be sleeping in the back seat... well that was just dumb.
I do have a healthy respect for staying away from grizzly bears though.

Posted by: to YODA | January 28, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

My mom tried to be the "cool" mom with the other kids, and I hated it! It embarassed me to death. But maybe we're all embarassed by our parents- who knows. I just know the last thing I wanted was for my mom to try to act like she was my friends' friend.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Is it necessary to diminish another mom's parenting skills so you can prop up your own as the "good example"?

I have been at both ends of the continuum in all honesty.

I waited until my son was in 3rd grade (he's a senior in high school now) until we bought him Playstation (the original).

He played sports, a musical instrument, played with his friends, but it just so happens he loves loves loves video games.

My daughter is much younger (11) and enjoys webkinz and the like. She also is in choir, chorus (school), plays an instrument, is learning to knit, is a Girl Scout and I could go on.

I was a volunteer class mom, coached soccer, led both Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, and am generally available to my kids, maybe too available.

Yes, my kids watch too much tv now, and that's something I want to curb. There are so many things I could do better, but in the end I think I'm a "good enough" mother.

My friend's daughter is forbidden from having certain foods. This little girl is in my Girl Scout troop, and she is always pushing for more snack, more treats, when the other kids are satisfied with what they have.

It's a fine line to limit your children's activities to "politically correct" ones. And, in the end, there are only certain things you can control. You can't control everything about your child, you can only guide them to adulthood.

My son loves fish and hates red meat. Did I plan it that way? Not at all. But he also still refuses most vegetables.

He doesn't drink or do drugs. What a relief. Is that a guarantee that he never will? Not at all, and I'm not lording it over anyone who has a teen who's been in trouble, because my kids, regardless of what I've done with them, can end up having problems.

Posted by: Kate | January 28, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

"How do you let go of controlling your kids' lives while still instilling your values?"

Does anyone else have issues with the language? Good luck "controlling" your kids for very long.

Posted by: Beth | January 28, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

There's this big area between being Cool Mom and being Ball-Buster Mom. It isn't hard to find, and most parents do pretty well there. I've been best friends with another Mom for 13 years (we have 5 kids, now aged 10 to 15 between us). Our kids have spent a great deal of time at each other's houses. She's a strict,vegetarian, Vermont farm girl, youngest of 12, who still says the Rosary on her knees. I'm a spoiled lawyer's daughter from the Midwest who believes in cutting slack and enjoying yourself. You bet we've had to compromise -- and we have each been frustrated with the other at times. But at the heart of things, we are both mothers who want our kids to be happy and do OK in the world. When you have something that big in common you accept that your friend has a lot to give your kids and you have a lot to give her kids. Everyone has to accept themselves and then make the effort to accept the other person. 13 years down the road we still go bump sometimes, but we love each other's kids and really look out for each other. And the kids really do figure out the whole "that's how they do it at their house" thing -- it's part of growing up and they actually enjoy it.

Posted by: Yo'mama | January 28, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

We're the cool parents because we have a minivan with the best sound system and let the kids turn up the music and use the rear climate controls (music is only on rear speakers, though - I don't like most of what they listen to). Controls are in the front, and if the station gets too inappropriate I will change it, and make them listen to NPR or classical or *horrors* the country station.

Kids know that the occasional s*it or d*mn isn't going to get them in trouble with us, as long as it's in context and accidental (drop a book on your foot, almost fall over on your skateboard) but the F word will get them the look of death and a request to not use that anymore (and now they apologize automatically, and it seldom happens).

We also are the parents that get the 'counselor' phone calls - DD's friends all know that I'm a Sunday school teacher and my partner is clergy so we get lots of questions on how to deal with things. They all know the rule is that if I am concerned with their safety (that they will be hurt, hurt themselves, or hurt someone else) that I reserve the right to call appropriate people (school, parents, etc. as needed) but will keep the 'I'm not sure if I should break up with them because we don't talk enough and....' questions to myself. Has given me great insight into what's going on with DD and her circle of friends - and she feels safe handing over the phone to me when her friends ask those kinds of questions and she can't answer them herself. I love that. :-)

I have to agree - coolness is more a factor of how different you are from the experiences of the kids at a young age, but as you get older it's more a function of treating them age-appropriately - not treating teens like 6 year olds, but not treating them like 21 year olds, either. So many parents go one extreme or the other, so staying in the middle of the road is an advantage.

Posted by: RebeccainAR | January 28, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

In our old neighborhood, kids would flock to our house when the garage door went up because my husband would play with them, listen to what they had to say, act interested in whatever bug they just caught, etc. Plus it didn't hurt that we had several large bins full of toys and games. They all knew the rules (big kids couldn't push the little ones around, clean up after done playing with toys) and that we wouldn't bend them but they kept coming. The kids just wanted an adult to interact with them. There are not many kids in our new neighborhood and none our daughter's age but at least there is a huge park next to our neighborhood full of kids for our little one to play with.

Posted by: 21117 | January 28, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

1. Funny how "cool" is being used as a euphemism for "bad."

2. It may seem that all of the bad parents are not on the blog today, but I really think it's just that all of the in-denial liars who are willing to post. The bad parents who are ok with their badness are just keeping it to themselves - the bad parents who tell themselves they're not are posting like there's no tomorrow.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you 12:56. I let my daughter watch nogin, spiderman, batman, etc.

She has also been known to eat a few cookies. Does it make me cool because I can bake a batch of cookies? My God, you would think that the people were feeding the kids acid and letting them watch porn.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Wow- apparently no one on this blog allows their kid to do anything remotely developmentally unsound (watch TV, play video games, etc). The "bad" parents must be posting on different blogs. I think I will go find them.... it gets a bit tiresome to read entry after entry of "at my house we only do wholesome, educational activities like legos and board games..."

Posted by: going to find a more interesting crowd | January 28, 2008 10:15 AM

What he said.

The Mommy Dictators are in the house today. Here in Stepford land, all of childhood is devoted to healthy snacks, protective gear, wholesome gender-neutral dolls, and pure wooden toys made only in America.

Weren't we talking about micromanaging playdates the other day? If a couple of 6 year olds decide they want to play together, they will decide what they want to do and the house that makes doing that most convenient will be selected. If one house has a game system, and the other doesn't, and that's what they want to do, what do you think their choice will be? Same for tv, trampolines or playing in the creek. Controlling the activity by requiring that they take turns and play at your house every other time is a good way to make sure that, in the future, the kid calls someone else and not your child.

I'm strict on the big stuff - safety -- but the handwringing over Star Wars and a cookie is grossly misplaced with respect to 6 year olds. Some of these parents must not have enough real concerns to occupy their minds.

Posted by: anon for this - busy eating a cookie | January 28, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

You know that is an interesting issue about being a cool mom and our 8 y/o twins. My wife and I have talked about that and well we see it as cool mom means popular twins. I am not making this a competition but well every advantage helps in today's competitive world. Just look at Jerome Kerviel. Hell he went to a junior college in France and look what he was able to do. A Frenchman who went to a junior college! I will damned if my girls will be unable to compete with someone from that class. I mean this is not that I want them to commit fraud just every advantage helps.

What we do when we have other children over is to make sure they have a great time. One of the favorite things the other children like is when we cater a fun lunch/tea party with little sandwiches served by a butler/clown and then they have a play date. We sometimes, depending on the number of children, have them go and do crafts (painting, yarn, etc.). We have a student from either Parsons or the New School supervises these activities. Right now the age group is a bit young for laser tag even though the girls are in a gun safety class. It's never too early to teach em proper handling. But from time to time we will let them into the entertainment room and they get to play Wii on both the 55" plasma TVs. For these events we generally have a programer from NYU who is a gamer there to teach them technique and tips. Other times we may do cooking where they make cupcakes or something yummy. Let me tell you with all the financially needy pastry chefs from the local cooking schools for a few bucks the children have a grand time. And they clean up for the children

So at the end of the day my wife rocks for these children and they all really want to spend time at our loft. It is so great to know that the girls are popular. Of course they is a bit jealousy from the other moms but that is so de classa. These other moms should notch it up instead of whining. Hey it is a competitive world and he who raises the coolest kids wins.

Posted by: NYC | January 28, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I don't get all the anti-tv and videogame sentiment either. If it's not something you do, ok. If it's something you limit generally, ok. I just don't see the harm- but then I'm a total pop culture junkie who has done as much as I can to instill a love of movies and enjoyable TV and videogames in my nephews. Somehow I ended up with a full scholarship to college and both of them are in the advanced classes in school.

Posted by: Liz D | January 28, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I taught 3rd grade ONCE a couple years ago for a few weeks. I OBVIOUSLY don't have the drug talk with them, but when I teach fifth grade, and the kids have "Turn your back on drug week" every September, the kids know what they're hearing is partially BS (a lot of them have older siblings) and ask me questions about it. And their parents trust me to explain it in a non-traumatic way.



a teacher who can't spell herion properly? Please clarify, are you telling 3rd graders that pot isn't as bad as heroin?

Posted by: | January 28, 2008 09:17 AM

You're right. I added an extra "e". Just like you rearranged the vowels. Good job, Kettle.

Posted by: Kat | January 28, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Luke's hand gets severed in The Empire Strikes Back. I agree that film is too dark for younger kiddies. Admittedly, a whole planet gets blown away in Star Wars, though it's a fairly cartoony explosion.

Our twins are 2 years old now and have only seen the TV on occasionally. I expect we'll have the occasional movie and video games at the right point. I do like one idea I've read in the comments. The TV stays off during play dates. The point is play, not watch.

I would agree that this is not good or bad parents, just those with different visions. A good friend of mine has been quite relaxed with TV rules (including fare I consider inappropriate). His son is well-behaved and a nice kid who does fine in school. I'm going a different direction.

I do want to be the cool parent when it comes to food. This doesn't mean sugar, it means fun food. I can't wait to watch Ratatouille with my sons and then make the dish from the movie with them.


Posted by: Fairlington Blade | January 28, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and serious posters know how to differentiate between a typo and a serious lack of writing ability.


Posted by: Fairlington Blade | January 28, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I think NYC is yanking our chains. At least I hope so!

Posted by: cherylinseattle | January 28, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait to watch Ratatouille with my sons and then make the dish from the movie with them

In the movie, a man gets a gun pulled on him by his girlfreind and then they make out.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

NYC -- funny post!

FB - I better add "serious poster" to my resume immediately. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Posted by: Ha Ha! | January 28, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

NYC, you're a stitch!
There are lots of ways to raise your kids right and only a few ways to do it wrong. Just because someone does it different doesn't mean their bad parents.

Posted by: Yo'mama | January 28, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Just for the record we live in downtown NYC in a loft... do you think someone from here would not be into competitive child rearing? We may not be wearing diamond studded Mercedes hood ornaments on 18kt gold chains or have some fancy grill work in our mouths but I assure you designer children is the name of the game.

Heck it is so annoying that every child gets feel like they won even when last. And who among us have not played to win. Bulling by label, address, and activities is the new little league.

Posted by: NYC | January 28, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I tell my son that the "cool" parents are turning their kids into sissies. Which is often the case. Then I promise to take him to do somethign manly, like go fishing or camping, or help me work on the car.

In the end, kids are fascinated by what grown ups do. Beats kiddie junk any time.

Posted by: Josiah | January 28, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

When I saw all the dancing teddy bears in "Return of the Jedi", my first thought was, Oh no, they are marketing the Star Wars episodes to 6 year olds.

When me and my 5 year old last watched "The Empire Strikes Back", we both giggled at the abominable snowman scene.

Star Wars *IS* kid's stuff!

Posted by: DandyLion | January 28, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I tell my son that the "cool" parents are turning their kids into sissies. Which is often the case.


What? In 2008 someone still uses the word "sissies?" Anti-gay much? What do you call African-Americans, may I ask?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

What? In 2008 someone still uses the word "sissies?" Anti-gay much? What do you call African-Americans, may I ask?

Everything is always about the gays!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

It's one of my favorite scenes when Remy is traveling up from the sewers to the rooftops of Paris. [If you look carefully, Remy rolls his eyes right after the couple kiss.] Linguini also gets hammered in the movie. But hey, it's really good wine!

There's some intense stuff in the movie. Particularly the scene at the shop with all the rat carcasses. I think it's for kids a bit older (on the young side, Toy Story works pretty well).

Off topic--but the Ratatouille from the movie is stunning. It's not that tricky to make--one can use a decent tomato sauce for the base. Yumm!!!

Sorry Dandylion, this one isn't for your kids. Perhaps Sweet breads a la Gusteau.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 28, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

As someone who apparently qualifies as a cool or "bad" parent, I have to object to the sissy assertion.

I let my son try and do way more stuff than his friends who have over-protective helicopter parents. He's not afraid of much, likes to be independent, has run off to the park by himself, can navigate through a computer, eats cookies and wants to take things apart and see how things work and isn't afraid of a few explosions in Star Wars.

I'm more inclined to think the sheltered children who don't know the difference between fiction and real life because, apparently, their parents are afraid of fiction are the Ralph Wiggums of the world (is that better than sissies? cry babies? wusses? momma's boys?)

Posted by: Oh Please... | January 28, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

"I've decided these are friends my kids can afford to lose (including the one who once asked me, "Why is YOUR house so small? Ours is so much larger . . " Decided we could deal without her or her family, who clearly taught her to go around judging others based on the size of their houses)."

How old are the kids? It seems to me that you may be the judgmental one. Kids are curious and ask all kinds of things, including questions that many adults consider inappropriate. Sometimes a question is just a question. And if it wasn't an innocent question, then maybe you should have explained that it was inappropriate and do something positive for the child rather than shun him/her.

Posted by: anon | January 28, 2008 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Stacey, sadly you and so many posters are all putting forth that their way is best way at the same time you're claiming that same old cliche "the TV is rarely on".... (probably because your child is in school or day care a good bit of the day?) You know you're a good mom, but so is your the one poster said, the bad parents aren't posting...the rest of us we're looking to be better parents by reading the column...yet, WE'RE ALL DOING "Screen Time" now aren't we?! (Bad parents, bad! now sign off and go spend quality time with your kids! or get some sleep so you won't be cranky tomorrow! :)

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 9:24 PM | Report abuse

I was always one to limit TV and keep things very simple (no gameboys, gaming systems, etc. I told my kids if they wanted to play with those things, they'd better suck up to someone who had them! This worked out very well because a lot of kids who have gaming systems seem to be a little lonely if no one else is excited about playing with them together. The key is not to be judgmental. I know those parents are good parents, too!!!

Posted by: SheRa | January 28, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

We let our son buy a Playstation (the old PS1 kind), when he saved up from his allowance, birthday money, etc. enough to buy a used one at a game-trading store. This was after the PS2 had come out, and having to save for and buy for himself let him learn how to comparison shop and see how prices changed for the brand new vs. the slightly old but still good thing. A year or so later, he "traded up" to a used PS2, and now has an XBox 360 that he also bought used with his own money. I think this process has been a great learning experience for him.

He still likes going to friends' houses where they have newer stuff, and bigger TVs, etc., but he has learned that jumping on every new thing that ocmes out is frankly, kind of brainless. And he appreciates his own things because he earned them himself.

Posted by: Pam | January 28, 2008 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Oh my God!!

I can't believe that you American parents can be so uptight - and competitive - over something like this.

Maybe thats one of the reasons you start wars where you can kill lots of people - because your children are just so frustrated they turn out to be little psychos more concerned with shopping for a bargain (or a bargain gun) and status symbol mums that letting children growing up and becoming adults ..

Hmmm - let me see - I think its called "neoteny" - the keeping of traits from those juvenile years which you should properly give up (aka "tantrums", "narcissism", "immature schizophrenia" and "me-me-me-me") - but which are encouraged in your culture by big business and corporations.

With the end result that your entire culture is dominated by the "7-Deadly Sins" and "the 10-commandments" but in the opposite direction ..

and you slag off us Europeans ... *gak*

Posted by: annoyed_european | January 29, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I forgot to mention that the only way to deal with the evils of popular culture and TV is to innoculate children as soon as possible - just like the disease those things prey on the people without any resistance

Children who grow up without TV are going to be mugged by it later - and just as children not exposed to childhood diseases in their childhood suffer - so will your children suffer ..

Expose your child to the risks and dangers of this modern world - let them see PG films if they can take it (hell - let them see 18 films if they can take it - it depends on the child) - but better to innoculate them in your own home and discuss it with your child than allow peer pressure to dominate

Modern Media is a viral meme - the only way to protect you children is by exposure.

Then they will grow up to be healthy adults - immune to many of the viral memes of modern media - and also question things that pretend *not* to be viral memes but are

Now - you are all responsible parents here right? Time to act like it ..

Posted by: annoyed_european | January 29, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Dear Annoyed,

Your analogy fails badly. The lack of TV does not mean that kids are going to be mugged by it later. A friend of mine grew up in a household without a TV. When they eventually got one, he simply wasn't interested. His somewhat younger brother watched TV obsessively for a little while, then grew bored with it. Media not a disease to which one must be exposed.

Ironic that in the midst of claiming Americans slag off Europeans (by which I assume you mean British; haven't heard anyone else use the term slag) that you're busy slagging off Americans. Pot, meet kettle. Charmed.


Posted by: Fairlington Blade | January 29, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I had some friends who wouldn't let their children play with toy guns - what was the first thing their children did when at my house?? - contruct "guns" out of lego and play "shooting games" (which my children rarely did - becuase they had access to water pistols aka "guns" - which we would hide when the other children visited)

I had some friends who wouldn't let their children watch tv - what happened when they were finally exposed to tv - they were mugged by the adverts (which cost more than the programs) - becuase that is what the adverts are designed for - brainwashing to buy ..

Even adults who "rarely watch tv" get mugged by adverts - they don't have the same media resistance than the people who have watched a zillion ads before

oh yes - mass media is a disease allright - invented by Hollywood and propagated through TV across the whole of the world - and the only way of building up resistance is by exposure - like any disease

Also - single cases and apocryphal stories (like the ones you quote) might seem to disprove the thesis - but ask yourself this: if "mugging" via "adverts" on TV didn't work - would large corporations still spend so much money??

I was one of the first of the Euro-generation to grow up with TV and now rarely watch it - and I really believe that early exposure to the disease of mass-media has made me more (and not less) immune to its siren charms ..

Posted by: annoyed_european | January 29, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I have two children and thoughout the years I could always tell which kids were from homes where the parents were restricting some activity or another. I firmly believe that kids raised this way want to engage in unhealthy behaviors much more than kids that are exposed to mainstream society. These kids were/are sneaky and keep important information from their parents. My kids never have despite the fact that I let them watch whatever they wanted and play the video games they wanted to play. My parents raised me to be an independent thinker and I'm doing the same for my own kids. My son, who I did worry and advise throughout HS for his penchant for the GrandTheftAuto video and Diablo online game (but let him make-up his own mind), is now a Junior at Cornell, on the varsity crew team, eating healthy foods, and hosting his own alternative music radio show. Kids will emulate their parents - if you've loved them.

Posted by: Allison | January 29, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Nuts to toy guns. My parents taught me to shoot. Can't recall constucting them or "playing guns." Guess I had a healthy respect for the real thing. Take them to the range and teach them properly.

Posted by: guns | January 29, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

At a certain point, it isn't about being the cool mom or dad. Kids can tell whether or not you like having them around you. If you like kids and feel comfortable with them, they will come to your house. My house is full of teenagers. They are not drinking, taking drugs, or making out. But they are trashing my kitchen trying to imitate cooking shows on tv, changing the radio station from NPR to something awful.

As the parent of a teenager, I would say, "Relax about the cookie."

Posted by: NJ Mom | January 29, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

>I have to also say that it's borderline behavior to let a 6 year old watch a PG movie. Star Wars is exciting, but Luke's father severs his hand, you know? Explain that one.

Hold on a sec. Darth Vader is Luke's father?

(sorry, couldn't resist)

Posted by: DreamOutLoud | January 30, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the posters who notice that children with "restricted" tv and movie exposure are always the ones who try their hardest to watch it once outside the home. Also, I always thought the point of playdates was to expose your kids to the other ways people conduct their lives. I am not talking putting them in the way of danger, but sweets before dinner and watching Star Wars is certainly NOT dangerous. It gives you the opportunity to talk to your child about the way you make your decisions and why. Otherwise, the kids eventually see the outside world and get shocked and want to suck it all up - making bad decisions and living in shock that everyone else isn't exactly like you.

Another point here is that I was protective of my first child - he didn't watch tv or movies that were not age appropriate. But, as I had two more children, they watched what their older brother watched and played what he played and were exposed to things at an older age level. When they have friends over, those children are also just mixed in with our family. I do not call to find out if it is appropriate that the kids may play with my older children, or hear their older discussions, or be in the room when they play a videogame (it may be rated for Youth and not G). It doesn't make me cool or uncool. But in my house, you follow my rules and I tell my children that in someone else's house, follow those rules -unless they know it is something that makes them very uncomfortable or that would put them in harms way.

Posted by: Former NoVa mom | February 1, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

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